Vonnegut on creative writing instruction

From Kurt Vonnegut’s Teaching the Unteachable:

You can’t teach people to write well. Writing well is something God lets you do or declines to let you do. Most bright people know that, but writers’ conferences continue to multiply in the good old American summertime. Sixty-eight of them are listed in last April’s issue of The Writer. Next year there will be more. They are harmless. They are shmoos….

“Who comes to writers’ conferences?” you ask. A random sample of twenty students will contain six recent divorcees, three preachers’ wives in middle life, five schoolteachers of no particular age or sex, two foxy grandmas, one sweet old widower with true tales to tell about railroading in Idaho, one real writer, one not merely angry but absolutely furious young man, and one physician with forty years’ worth of privileged information that he wants to sell to the movies for a blue million.

See also The Guest Word: A New Scheme for Real Writers and The Latest Word (a dictionary review).


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